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If Being Black Ever Gets Too Inconvenient, Rachel Dolezal Can Opt Out

The freedom to go from identifying as white to black isn't afforded to blacks who would want to identify as white.

Clint Smith: The Rachel Dolezal case and phenomenon is interesting. Part of me finds it very silly. People have been talking about this idea of transracial like if you’re comparing her to Caitlyn Jenner and saying, you know, well if someone can choose, can say that they were born feeling a woman or born feeling a man in a woman’s body or what have you. Then if they can make that choice, shouldn’t someone still be able to make that choice around race.

I would push back and say that I don’t think that those are the same thing. I think those have very different consequences and implications and manifest themselves in very different ways. And, you know, Rachel Dolezal, while she might deeply love black culture, while she might deeply believe herself to be a participant in black social and cultural spaces, at the end of the day she can opt out, you know. She can say — she can choose to not be black in a way that black people cannot choose to not be black. I can’t, you know, get pulled over by a policeman and tell him I’m white today. So the way you should interact as me as a white person because that’s how I identify. I can’t do that. That’s not a reality. I don’t have the opportunity or would ever want to opt in or out of my racial identity. For Rachel Dolezal, she can. She can choose if it came down to a matter of deep inconvenience, she could choose to not navigate the world as a black person anymore. And in the implications of her actions are subsequently very different than a real black woman’s. And I think it brings up a larger conversation around what is race, which I think is an important conversation to have. Because again we have to recognize that race is largely a social construct. Like it is not an actual real thing.

Racism and because race has been made a real historical issue, those things are real. But when it’s done I think and what’s important is it is sort of there’s a catalyst for a dialogue again in a different way as so many things over the course of this year have around what race is, how we think about it, how we conceive of what it means to be racialized. And I think these are important conversations to have.

The strange Rachael Dolezal saga has opened the door to a world's worth of hot takes and perspectives. Author and poet Clint Smith stopped by Big Think recently and explained why he sees a major separation between Dolezal and the African-Americans she seeks to identify with. The freedom to go from identifying as white to black isn't afforded to blacks who would want to identify as white.

Penn Jillette: The year that shattered America's illusions

The year 2020 will go down in history as one that shook our inner and outer worlds.

Big Think LIVE
In this Big Think Live session, magician, author, and cultural critic Penn Jillette will discuss the giant upheavals of 2020 through the lens of what he knows best: illusions.
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Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

Videos
  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

Image: metamorworks / Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
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